Set to unfold across the next 15 years the ‘first comprehensive’ NHS England workforce plan – ‘made by the NHS, backed by government’ puts parameters in place to recruit and retain NHS staff.
As of March 2023, services reported over 112,000 vacancies. The government aims to train more staff, incentivise current staff to stay, and modernise the way they work and train.
They pledge to significantly increase training spaces by 2031, including 24,000 nursing and midwifery places every year. Incentives to stay include a modernised pension scheme, development support, and additional childcare.
Alongside these pledges, the plan sets out an intention to invest more in ‘prevention and early intervention’ through community and primary care growth. The plan also emphasises the importance of health visitors on ‘improving the health and wellbeing of families’ and how their support alleviates pressure on hospitals.
In order to recruit more health visitors, the plan states that education and training routes would need to expand 74% by 2031/32, with the aim to grow training places by 17% by 2028/29. In turn, places for district nurses are projected to grow 41%, and school nurses 28% in the same timeframe.
Responding to the document published last Friday, Andrea Sutcliffe of the NMC said there’s ‘much to welcome’:
‘Expanding the numbers of health visitors, school nurses and district nurses will help deliver care and support where people need it most, in their communities.
‘To reap the benefits of the ambitions set out in this plan, nurses, midwives and nursing associates need to be valued and supported, their diversity celebrated and the discrimination and racism some face, resolutely tackled.’
However, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said in a recent statement that the ‘transformation will fail’ without decent wages:
‘There is a promise of funding for training for three years, but nothing about money for current staff,’ she said.
‘If there is not enough money to pay NHS staff a decent wage now, and transform current wage structures, then all the aspirations for more staffing in the training plan will fail to address the current crisis in the recruitment and retention of staff. That is what is at the heart of the current staff exodus.’
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